There is no “Complete obedience”

A sweet, young friend posted this on Facebook recently.

“The past week has been so horrible. I’m ready to leave behind all of these mistakes and failings once and for all. It’s times like these you realize what is truly important and fulfilling- what your heart really needs. I don’t even want to imagine the utter hopelessness and horror that my life would be without Jesus. I am so thankful for His grace and mercy that have carried me this far, and I trust and believe that He will be faithful to keep on picking me up and keep on forgiving me. I pray in 2016 that I will be able to trust Him more and be completely obedient to His voice in the ways that I have failed this year.”

Boy, do I know this place. Many of us have in our heads an idea of what things should look like and how everything will be good if we just obey or perform or love more. We get hung up in OUR role in having our “good” life.

 

P4107830

Let’s stop beating ourselves up. There is no “completely obedient.” Never.  And think about it …the ONLY way to live without struggle, peril and difficulty is to live in a perfect world .. and that’s not this earthly place.

Whatever you’ve been through, it has taught you more about empathy, compassion, understanding and mercy. It has taught you more about trust, faith, and keeping your eyes on Him.

I have a friend who says “hope can be a dangerous thing.”( I wrote about that here) Think about that. It’s SO true. When our hope is in God alone, we are strengthened. BUT ….. when our hope is in some idea of what things SHOULD look like, how we SHOULD feel, or how things SHOULD turn out, we will almost always be sorely disillusioned. Vacations, nail polish colors, marriages, friendships, iPhone screens, kittens, dating websites, dentists, children, new ice cream flavors, church sermons and darned socks can … and will disappoint us.

This world offers us an idea that includes a picket fence, a new car, a dog and cat, kids that immediately apologize after a fight and a loving, kind spouse. It’s a facade … a front with no follow through or guts behind the scenes. It’s like a movie set or a theatrical stage or Disney World. The fence will eventually rot, the car will break, the cat will have fleas, the dog will have an accident in the house,  kids rarely apologize without being prompted or forced and spouses disagree and hurt each other with or without intention.

And these things happen whether we are completely obedient or not.

IMG_0078

SOMETIMES … our grandiose ideas of what things SHOULD be are even based on scripture. But, I think we miss the mark e.v.e.n in using scripture as our guide for SHOULD.  For example, God told Abraham to sacrifice/kill his son. Rahab lied and it appears it was a good thing. David killed a man with a rock (and a slingshot). The Bible is full of things that you would think would be “should nots.” But, God used them for good.

Frankly, sometimes I scratch my head when I read scripture.
But rather than filling me with doubt,
the stories of the Bible remind me that
I can’t possibly understand God
and the crazy that is in this world.
Sometimes I will do things
that other people will question,
but I should keep my eyes on God
rather than making sure my actions please other people.
Sometimes, even God’s promptings won’t make sense to us.

The thing is; He knows our hearts.
When our motivation is to please Him,
He sees that.

So, let life happen and don’t fight it. There will always be complicated, messy … let’s call it what it is …. really shitty stuff. There will be SUPER hard things. There will be disappointments from people.There will be tough situations when you feel alone. Expect it. KNOW that it’s coming and just let it all be okay. It’s going to happen and it’s not YOUR FAULT … it is more like a gift for you … a gift to help you grow, to further your maturity and to draw you to God.

I-20 W... the road from Augusta to Stone's house

As Christians, it would be foolish for God to protect us from the gunk. THEN people would want to be saved JUST SO they would be protected. No. He wants us to turn to Him so He can comfort, teach and guide us … not to place us inside a gated fence (Eden) to keep us from tangled brambles, pokey stickers and pits of sticky mire.

Keep your eyes on God and let Him direct how you d.e.a.l with those situations … but don’t expect that your obedience to Him will keep you from those difficult places. If He protected us from all the junk, we would have the idea that our performance and obedience is where our security lies.

dirtroad

In reality, we don’t know what is around the bend. We will walk through storms, darkness and fire. And each of us has a different path to walk. Don’t compare your path to someone else’s.

Our security lies in knowing that He loves us through it. He steadies us through us. And He teaches us compassion to minister to others through it. I say … 2016, Bring It On! Teach me, Lord! Work in me through my struggles so I can be more like you and love others with great compassion, mercy and empathy.

 

 

Photo credit: Picket Fence, Maggie McCain via Flickr, Creative Commons

 

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Morning Wandering and Reflection

I stroll through the morning in the spring air
chilled to the low 40’s yet filled with powdery, yellow evidence of awakening life.
I see natural images that remind me of
relationships.

Like Jesus spoke in parables, paralleling the spiritual and physical worlds, God convicts and teaches me through similar daily events.

Our paths are strewn with dregs from past mistakes
yet some will blame others for not clearing the way
and making their walk easy. Path strewn with rubbish

Sometimes
our view is filled with obstacles, damage, ruin.

Left over damage

Some will walk through life searching through clover
wondering why others find the lucky four-leaf beauty …
but all they see in their own life is the common, three-leaf variety.

clover

While new life springs forth,
some will find themselves stepping on the prickles of
last year’s mistakes.

Sweet Gum Balls & New Growth

They hold onto those old brown pods  …
as their souls naturally sprout the fresh growth
as the days grow longer and the sun more bright.
“Let go,” cries the wind. But they cling.

Sweet Gum & new growth

Some will come along
and cut down the healthy and strong …
the growing  that is full of life and possibility ….

Beaver toilsWe see the damage .

Beaver work

It is hard to watch them walk away
and leave that broken and wasted behind.Beaver damage
Life lost … relationship broken … for naught.

In the end, that waste can be used for some good.
It can fuel other life.
It can nourish other growth.

New life being nourished in deathWe can take the bitterness or injury that spews from others
and use it in our own lives
to help us grow in empathy, compassion and understanding.
We can even offer it back as a sacrifice to those that first offended.
But, this doesn’t ease the pain of the original loss.
It only helps us to heal
and is an indicator of our own growth.
Left over damage

Look closely.
Search.
Our thoughts, words and actions
are a natural reflection of
the condition of our inner spirit.

Reflection We don’t see things as they are;
we see things as we are.  – Anais Nin

May we all strive to see others with grace and mercy.
May we use the broken in our lives to nourish our empathy towards others.
May we be pleased to be surrounded by the common,
and easily let go of the old,
that we can nourish and foster new growth.

Breathing & Messages from God

As far back as 2009 when I first bought these “breathe” socks
and then shared them as a Makes Me Happy Monday  post,
God was reminding me to slow down and take a deep breath.

My Happy Breathe Socks

My friend Linda came not too long ago.  I was gathering things together for a yard sale when she was here. She spied my “breathe in – breathe out” coffee cup and I found myself easily able to explain that I didn’t need it any more. I don’t need the reminder. I’m okay now.My Breathe in - Breathe out mug
But, evidently I do need the reminder.

Kelly Rae Roberts Reminder to Breathe
Because God keeps reminding me ….

Breathing reminder from GRU Health
over and over again …..
Inside the book Raw Survival
It continues.

My friend, Heather,  tells me these c.r.a.z.y stories about seeing messages on license plates. I remember a story about how she was really struggling to keep her four active kids entertained in the summer heat.  She’s a single mom on funds that are very limited. She had an above ground pool that her kids thoroughly enjoyed … but she needed a new filter for the pool and had no money to buy one. She found herself crying out to God in frustration as she ran errands. In her wonderfully honest, bare and authentic way, she was fussing and crying and driving and sobbing and praying about all of life’s current crazy including the need for a pool filter … when a car passed her with a license plate that said “FILTER1.”
That was only ONE of the car tags that she saw that night
with words or phrases that specifically fit her life and situation
and the prayers she prayed as she drove along the road, chatting with and crying out to God.

I laugh and send her pictures of license plates that I see. They say things like this ….


Great plate.
but …. errr….
I don’t hear a personal message though.

And that reminded me how a.w.e.s.o.m.e God is
in that He speaks to us in a way that we know is for us.
He speaks in a way that we understand.
He says what we need to hear when we need to hear it
in a voice that we can hear.

So, I’m watching and listening.
And the message God keeps putting in front of me
remains the same ;
breathe.
I see it in ads, on coffee cups, in memes that are shared with me on Facebook and sent to me directly.
I see it on t-shirts and billboards.

I see it in print …
but have yet to read the word breathe on a license plate. haha

Just Breathe


How does God speak to you? Through license plates? Repetitive symbols?
Words? Billboards? Radio? Children? Books?  

 

Stop the striving …

My sweet Glory is getting ready to pack up her vehicle and move her boyfriend to Texas to live with her.
Five years ago, I would have been sorely disappointed.
Ten years ago, I would have been devastated.

But, I am a different person today than I was five or ten years ago.
Divorce has been so good for me.

In a conversation with a friend last night, I was asked how I felt about this move.
Without hesitation, I replied, “I’m okay with it.”

At the end of every Super Soul Sunday interview, Oprah ends her conversation with this marvelous question

“What do you know for sure?”

I am still blown away by the question.
If there IS one thing that I KNOW for sure,
it’s that I really don’t know much of anything for sure.

Through divorce, I lost all those crazy dreams of things that may never happen
… those dreams that you hold on to because you want them to come true.
I used to be so hopeful. But, my hopes hung on ideals and expectations.

Oh, what joy and freedom
to just live …
in the here and now
not waiting for
hoping for
or praying for something
bigger, better, faster, stronger, safer, richer ….
just be.
today.
here.
now. 

Life is a journey ... not a destination. - Emmerson

What DO I know for sure?
I know that life is full of lessons.
And it is a gift that we go through struggles.

I’ve noticed a recurring theme in the answers given to Brandon on the Humans of New York webpage. When asked about regrets, we often make decisions on how to live our lives according to the things we have seen others do. We decide we won’t spank our children, because our parents were too aggressive with spankings. Or we choose to indulge in grand vacations, because our parents never took us away from home. Or we decide to let our kids eat whatever they desire, because we were forced to eat green things and we still hate them.

Click here for a perfect example.  This woman said, “”My mom died the week she was supposed to retire. I think she died of sheer exhaustion. So I decided I was going to live my life in the present, and not focus on money. I just wanted to know myself and live life accordingly. I never thought about the future. So I find myself, at my age, having to focus on money.”

Here’s another.   ““My dad was a Latin musician, so I rebelled against that and chose rock and roll. So I wanted to be careful not to try to force my interests on my son, because then he’d go the other direction.”

This man  is living his life in a way that makes sure that his son has a better life than he did.

Here’s the thing; there are no guarantees. Going left may keep you from the trouble you see on the right, but you don’t know what struggle is around the bend, over the hill or just out of sight …. down the path leading from the left fork.

My daughter is moving her boyfriend into her apartment half way across this nation to live with her. Am I okay with it? Absolutely. You know why? Because, she’s a grown woman. There are lots of roads to be taken. Hers is not mine to travel. And hers is not even mine to direct. I could plan out her life making my decisions according to what I did right or wrong, what I should have done or what my parents did or didn’t do … and in the end, her life could still be a total wreck. Her life may or may not be what I expected for her when I was planning or directing. Most importantly, it certainly wouldn’t be a fulfillment of her vision for her life.

I have had the firsthand experience of watching a parent turn their back on a child because a child said something that hurt their feelings. The words spoken were foolish, but the fact is ….. a child spoke them. I’ve seen parents turn away from children for their actions. We all do things that don’t please others. If I please you today with my words, surely they will offend someone else. It’s all part of life.

My dream today for my children like my dream for myself ; just be. Drop the expectations. Leave behind the struggles of what should or shouldn’t happen. Forget about that hokey movie-script life. Even the people who LOOK like they have it all together …. simply have a well-constructed facade. There is no perfect life.

Of course, I pray, hope and dream that my children love God and obey Him …
but just like He does for each one of us,
He’ll deal with them on own His time
in the areas that He chooses
in the way, timing and order that He chooses.
It’s not my job to step in and snatch His job from His hands.
What a joy! It’s not my job anymore.
Because if I look back over my life …. I’ve made some really big messes.
Here is one thing I can say I know for sure; it’s a good thing
that I’m not perpetually in charge of anyone
except myself.

In a few days, I’ll watch Glory drive out of the driveway to begin a new chapter in her adventure book. She has a wonderful boyfriend who adores her. He even embraces her feisty spirit!  I see how comfortable she is with him. I see them thoroughly enjoy each other. They appear to be a good fit.

Yet, they will have bumps in the road. They will hit struggles. But, the life is theirs to live. I’m not willing to let my ideals and expectations get in the way of loving her and remaining in sweet fellowship with her.

What I know for sure is
people and relationships are more important than ideals and expectations.

Promoting World Peace

“Why can’t we all just get along? People fight and argue, back bite and slander, sue, divorce and murder. No good comes from retaliation. There is no victory in vengeance. Life is messy. Relationships are work. Love people where they are. Focus on the good and forgive quickly, fully and deeply. #lovewins ”

I posted the above words on my Instagram  feed yesterday morning.

Can't we all just get along?

Day before yesterday, I happened to look at a few of hashtags associated with the middle east violence. It seemed as though it had been a while since I had heard anything about the terror going on there  …
and  ….  well ….

we all know that the media quickly moves from one attention-getting topic to another. Just because we haven’t heard anything … doesn’t mean that the terror reigning there has stopped or even slightly improved.

As I scrolled through the photos associated with hashtags, I saw images with the words, “Je suis Charlie,”
but at the time, I didn’t know about the attack in France. It had only happened a few hours earlier.

Yesterday, I heard.
I heard about the men who stormed the office of  the satire magazine Charlie Hebdo.
I heard about the editor who had been provided police protection after death threats upon his life over a year ago.
I heard about the eight journalists, a lone guest and two police officers who were murdered.

And today … the people across the world are linking arms through imagery and proclaiming,
“I am Charlie” or “Je suis Charlie,” in French.

You know what I see when I see those “Je suis Charlie” signs?
I see “JE SUIS Charlie.”
Do you see it?
“I” am sandwiched right there in the middle of “JESUS.” 
Me. And Jesus. Together.
And the translation for Je suis Charlie is I am Charlie.
Do you see that?
“I am” is the name God called Himself in Exodus 3:14.

The I am Charlie signs are proclaiming solidarity
… in part, for freedom of speech …
and that … truly … those killed could have been any one of us.

In a way, I am Charlie. And you are Charlie. We are all Charlie.
Any one of us COULD have been one of those people shot.
We are all one. We are all connected. We all have rights and freedoms.

I don’t know about you, but I feel so discouraged at times knowing
I can’t make a difference in the far away places that are riddled with violence.
ALL.the.time, I say
“Life is messy. Relationships are work. Love people where they are.”
And you know what? We can’t fix everything, but we can help some things. We can influence.

I thought all day yesterday about this terror and these messes and the chaos and the spiraling of this world
that often feels out of control.
What can we do? How can we help?
Some people aspire to change the world or to influence thousands,
but for most of us, the greatest influence we will ever have in our lives
is the influence on our own immediate family …
those that live with us day after day in our home … our children and our spouse.

And what do we know about people?
Well, we know that people who are wounded often wound others.
People that come from abuse, often abuse others.
So, we DO have some power in our homes to shape lives.
First, we become aware of our own junk, pains and habits.
We figure out why we do what we do and if it’s healthy or harmful.
Then we make changes to become more healthy
and talk about our stuff so our kids can see us working, changing and healing.
We tell our stories. In telling our stories, we help others know they are not alone
which encourages them to make changes, as well.

We love people where they are, but don’t pick up their bad habits
so that we further the cycle of pain.
We forgive those that hurt us.
We offer mercy.
This is tough work. But, with Christ’s power within us and His leading our spirit, we can do this. With Jesus example to follow, we turn the other cheek. We don’t force our ideas or opinions on others. We offer ourselves. We just love. Love people.

Last night, I googled “How can I promote world peace?”
This was one of the top hits.

“What can you do to promote world peace?
Go home and love your family.” – Mother Teresa

This is it. This is where we have our influence. This is where we change things.
This is how we can promote world peace … in our own small (or great!) way.

It may not feel like much today, but the influence you have today can truly change tomorrow’s world. We don’t know who our children will become. They can be great peace keepers or they may wreak havoc. They may build up or they may tear down. Truly, each soul has the potential to influence many. As much as it is possible,  forgive, extend grace and offer mercy.
Love people where they are.

Spread world peace. Just love people.

* Note: The awesome a cartoon is by Marcus Connor  that you can have printed on tees, mugs, greeting cards and more. Click over to see more and use the affiliate link, if you’re interested in a purchase.)

God’s Provision for Camping

Do you see Him?
I look.
every.where
all.the.time

I watch for God and I see Him.

My pottery Angel

I mentioned that Joy encouraged me  several months ago to “Go!” and “Do!”
I signed up for a camping trip,
but I just wasn’t sure how I would finance it.
Money is tight and I couldn’t run out and buy everything I needed.
I needed
– a single-person tent (our tent is a four person)
– a sleeping mat (as a buffer between the cold ground and my sleeping bag)
– a lighter weight sleeping bag (easier on the back when carrying a long distance)
– a filtering-water bottle (because you can’t carry 36 hours worth of water in your backpack)
– convertible pants
– hiking boots that I could comfortably hike in for two full days.
These things can easily add up to several hundred dollars.

Even though I had no idea HOW these things would come to me,
I signed up for the trip in faith
and watched for provision.
If they didn’t come, I would bow out at the eleventh hour
and assume that God didn’t want me on the trip.

I have to say that I felt a kind of urgency in going on this trip. I’ve wanted to take an overnight, backpacking trip for years and years. Several years ago, I shared that dream with Stone. He told me that we would take a trip like that … but we parted ways before it came to fruition. I can’t go on a trip like this ALONE .. because I am not experienced and female. It would be foolish.  And I don’t have many friends …. ANY friends that camp like this. So, when one was posted on one of my Meet Up groups, I knew it was now or … who knows when?

So, I signed up in faith
and waited to see how things puzzle-pieced together.

I had a borrowed backpack. It belongs to Glory. We picked it up at a yard sale for $2 several years ago. This style – with an external frame – is not really popular any more, but I saw great benefit in using it. It helped distribute the weight inside well. It sat up off my back a little bit so it was not as hot as  backpack-style gear. And, of course, I loved the price. My backpack at home

I remembered about two weeks before the trip that I had two options for a tent that might possibly pan out. I gave away a small pup tent several years ago.  I called the person I believed I had gifted the tent to see if I could borrow it. I also loaned our larger tent to a friend and her family a while back. I contacted them to see if they could return it. I was considering cutting that large tent and sewing it into a single-person version. I wasn’t sure if I could pull this off … but I really wanted to go on this trip.

When the couple showed up with the tent several days later, we stood in the driveway to catch up. We chatted for quite a while before they asked me about the camping trip I was planning. I told them of my idea to convert the big tent into a smaller one. Jocelyn asked, “Well, how much does a tent like that cost?” I explained it could run between $30-$50.00 I had done a little research on Amazon to get prices. Little did I know a lighter weight, small tent is much more … especially in a local, brick-and-mortar store.

We finished talking and my friend and her family left ….
only to return about thirty minutes later to put two $20.00 bills in my hand
with a hug and a squeeze.
“Enjoy your trip,” she said as she dashed away.
I’ve learned not to refuse God.
I was so blessed to receive this gift!
“One step closer,” I thought! “Praise you, Lord!”

When I stopped by my other friend’s house, she had a tent in her front yard. It was drying out from a camping trip a week earlier. It was actually lighter weight than the pup tent that I had given away a few years ago.  They happily loaned their tent to me. And they had a sleeping mat, as well!

My tent beside Panther Creek, Clarkesville, GA

So, I still needed a water filtering system.

I was surprised at how expensive they were. They average between $59.-$125.00. I did lots of price comparisons and settled on this $30.00 option from Cabelas. Aquamira Filtering Water Bottle

As I walked in the store on Sunday, I was one of the first 100 customers in the store
and I was handed a gift card
for $10.00. Thanks Cabelas!

I teared up
and almost broke down in sobs.
Really, Lord? Cash? AND a gift card?

I had a backpack, a tent and a water-filtration system.
I had an answer (that I wrote about here)  for how to make the hiking boots I already owned work for me.
And I found a way to buy a pair of pants that should have cost me $45.00 …. for only $30.00. (I wrote about that here)
I also learned (here)  how to pack my backpack in a way that it was so light that carrying a more heavy, older sleeping bag wasn’t a burden at all.
Everything I needed had been provided in some way.

You know what I am really, truly enjoying about divorce?
I don’t look to my husband for provision.
I have always looked to God …
but I’ve looked to God T.H.R.O.U.G.H  the filter of my spouse.
Since that “go-between” has been removed,
I am no longer distracted.
And I’m so much more at ease.
It might not have worked for me to camp.
I would have been sad, but not devastated.
If I couldn’t do, I would have assumed that God didn’t want me on that trip …
and I would have been okay with it.

But, I watched Him piece it all together for me.
He offered me adjustments in a few areas,
loans in other places
and outright gifts for other needs.

As I walked those trails
and looked at His glory in creation,
I knew I was supposed to be there
soaking it all in ….. enjoying every moment,
because He had made a way.

Panther Creek, Clarkesville, GA

What a blessing.
What a gift.

Watch for Him today – this week – this month.
Follow your heart.
When doors close, don’t be angry. Maybe it is protection of some sort?
Yet, when doors open and provision comes along,
walk through those doors
and bask in His provision and glory.

Autumn hues in the North Georgia mountains

Deserving Forgiveness

Over 20 years ago, I went through a program at my church that taught a systematic way to tell people about God. We learned how to share in a way that was personal and included illustrations and specific verses from scripture.

One of the illustrations that made a tremendous impact on me was this one:

Wrapped gift - plain brown paper & personalized, layered fabric

If I offered you a gift, you would have to
acknowledge the gift’s presence,
reach out your open hands,
transfer that package from the giver to yourself
and then unwrap it and accept it as yours
in order to truly receive it as a gift.

Like Jesus spoke in parables, paralleling the spiritual and physical worlds, God convicts and teaches me through similar daily events.

Isn’t that beautiful?
Had you ever thought of receiving a gift
in such an intricate, personal way?

 

This illustrates the steps we must go through to accept the gift of Christ as our Savior
and with it, His forgiveness.

Recently, a complete stranger who doesn’t know me at all
quoted words from one of my blogposts. He pointed out in conversation
that I had written a story about Joy and forgiveness. He said that I mentioned that some people “do not deserve to be forgiven.” 

I was not given a post reference and I couldn’t easily find it through my blog’s search tool. This statement just stabbed at my gut. Had I REALLY said that? It doesn’t SOUND like something that I would say in conversation or writing … at least not in the way and context that it was thrown at me. I believe we should all strive to forgive others when they hurt us, whether they ask for forgiveness or not.

I spent several days mulling over this thought
and began to think more about forgiveness
what it looks like
who deserves it
and when we should offer it.

I came back to the blog … and finally found my words here. 

Then it all made sense. That line is straight off the screen.
But, oh how different it looked when it was twisted with an attitude in which it was not written.
Oh, yes! Those words were correct … but the heart of how they were written was misconstrued by the reader.

Wrapped gift - plain brown paper & personalized, layered fabric

None of us d.e.s.e.r.v.e.s forgiveness.
I don’t deserve forgiveness for any transgression that I have committed
any more than you deserve forgiveness for any pain that you have unleashed.
We don’t deserve forgiveness for
lying, cheating, murder, stealing or breaking a vow.
Forgiveness is not something we deserve.
Nor can we earn forgiveness.
No. Forgiveness is a gift that we offer to heal relationships.
It is a gift that can take time to package and prepare.
It is a gift that can be very difficult to release into the receiver’s grasp.
And there are times, when the recipient does not even WANT the gift.
By refusing forgiveness, they continue to cry “victim” or claim rejection.
But …. you nor I can FORCE them to accept forgiveness .. and healing.

But, always, in giving the gift of forgiveness
we are the ones who receive the greatest blessing.

None of us “deserve” forgiveness
which is all the more reason that I do my best to offer it quickly
and actively encourage my children
to offer it in spite of themselves
and in spite of the actions of the offender.

My comforting storage bag drawer

Kitchen Drawer Back in September, Jeff was cooking my birthday breakfast when he happened upon my ziploc bag drawer. He took the opportunity to poke fun at my marked boxes. In my defense, when the boxes are in the drawer, the quarter, snack and sandwich bag sizes are fairly indistinguishable.  So, I write the bag size on the box in big, black sharpie letters.

And I have to admit … that the other day … when I bought a few new boxes in preparation for the return of school-lunch-packing and I slid them into the drawer, it made me quite happy because the boxes filled the drawer almost perfectly. It was as if I had finished a puzzle, placing that last snack bag box into the drawer. There was this wonderful comfort knowing  ….
if there were no other spots in my house that were currently in order ….
at least THIS one was. *contented sigh*

And as I slid that drawer shut, I thought about how most of us sssoooo desire order. We want to know what comes next. We want our plans to work out. We expect the car to run when we crank it, the alarm to go off when we set it and the refrigerator to be cold when we open the door. We would like for the children to be obedient, our spouses to be faithful and our friends to understand us.

But … real life doesn’t look like that.  Children make mistakes. Cars break. Spouses walk out.
But, God …. He is constant.

I was talking with a friend the other day and we were sharing how different our lives look today than they looked last year … and how we never dreamed this life five years ago …. and we were wondering how much more different NEXT year may look!

What if  have cancer!
Or have a wreck and am paralyzed!
And I still have no insurance?
What if am in jail!
Or my house burns down!
What if I’m dead!
Who will help my kids?”

“Will I have insurance?
Or a job?
Will my kids be ok?
What if my ex loses his job?
Will I be homeless? ”
These are such unsure times.
No matter what life looks like …. everything can change in the blink of an eye.

When Joy and I went to the theater over the weekend, this preview played.
I really, really want to see this movie! I KNOW people like this … families like this!!

“I’m sure you’d prefer to think that Santa Claus brought you presents, too.”
“In my day, families stayed together.”
“Is anybody s’posed to smoke?”
“Be a father. Help me.”
“Marriage is hard.”

And, yes!  I was THAT person in the theater that BELLY LAUGHED OUT LOUD
…. off and on during this trailer.
Then came the line ….
” Thank God we can’t tell the future.”
Julia Roberts replies with an obvious, ominous knowing
in a matter-of-fact tone …..
…  “or we’d never get out of bed.”
And I fell silent. Such a stinging truth.

Each of us “retreats.”  We all look for ways to medicate our pains
and smooth the rough edges of life.
Cigarettes, alcohol, sleep, shopping, pornography,
food, social media coma, work, abuse/bullying  of others
… we all deal with struggle in different ways.
But, healthy calls out for help. Healthy faces the mess rather than running … numbing … hiding.
And God is there to comfort, guide and love us through the tough stuff.

Kitchen drawer

We all want order in our lives.
We all want to know what comes next …
but real life doesn’t often look like we want or expect.
No matter what life looks like …
rest assured that God can and will walk you through.
He won’t wave a magic wand and “fix” it all,
but He will offer strength, guidance and peace
as you make your way through this surprising, messy maze
that is life.
And He can give us the strength to get out of bed in the morning
no matter what the day holds.
And on those days when we feel like we still can’t do it,
He’ll hold us and comfort us while we rest.

Psalm 108:4  For great is Your love, higher than the heavens; Your faithfulness reaches to the skies.

Just Enough

I do that thing that I do. I put off buying.  I don’t like to spend money.
I created artwork on the front of my personal calendar as a reminder;
Money … like time, can be spent  any way you want … but it can only be spent once.
But, we are out of creamer, near the end of toilet paper rolls and I must buy lunchbox food.
I have vegetables for evening meals, but I need a package or two of meat.
Meat is expensive. I will be careful.

My personal calendar

 

It is a chilly evening. I’ve been out for hours and I just want to go home.
I pull into the parking lot and look for a spot on “my row.”
I always park in the same row at stores that I frequent.
It makes it easier for me to find my car upon my exit.
I always know which direction to walk and the general area where I will find my car.
Once less thing to remember is always a good thing.

I know exactly what I need to purchase. My funds are very limited.
The other day, a magnet got too close to my ATM card and deactivated it.
I don’t carry or write checks so, until my new card comes, I only have a little bit of cash.
I am thankful.

I pull out my money and count carefully. I have a twenty, a ten, two fives and ones.
Forty seven dollars with change. That is my limit.
I don’t write down the cost of each item, but I mentally add as I load my shopping cart.

I make my way through the store as quickly as I can.
James will be home from work soon.
My Joy is already there. I have not seen her since she arrived home from school.
Glory has been on an adventure out-of-town and is home from her trip.
I miss them. I want to hurry.

Then I see a friend.
Lorin is dear to my heart. I have known her almost as long as we have lived in Augusta.
My Glory babysat for her littles for years. She lives around the corner.
I adore her children … and have watched them grow .. and mature.
Lorin & Soph
I photographed her family over Thanksgiving.
She is a breath of fresh air ….
there in the store. I hug her neck and thank God and breathe.
I needed to see her.

In front of the lunch meat refrigerator, we catch up.
I don’t want to linger long, but we share
and I am thankful. I breathe deep and soak in this rare pleasure
of fellowship with a kindred heart.

Heading to the check-out, I choose the self-checkout line.
I can choose the order to add my items, watching the amount as I go.
I have a roast and pork chops. If I must, I will leave the pork chops behind.

One by one, I run the UPC stickers past the scanner. Praying as I scan,
my twenty-something total jumps to thirty-two
when I add the roast.
I wonder if I will be forced to leave behind the second package of meat.

But, this is not a first. This is not the first time I have counted dollars
and known things would be close.
I have watched time and again .. and seen God allow me to have the right amount
with just a bit to spare.

It doesn’t happen when you use a debit or charge card.
It happens when you deal in cash.
And it happens in the day-to-day in the physical world
when you know your limitations
and you know what is expected of you
and you live life on your knees
asking him to fill in the gaps
and make up the difference.

 

Money left over

 

I was at the end. Pork chops were the last scan.
I counted my money one more time.
$5.85 went across the scanner.
My total was $47.27.
Every.single.bill would be spent.
I checked my change pocket.
Yes. I had enough.
I choose to finish and pay.

Without counting precisely,
I was able to buy the items I needed …
every item I had placed in my buggy
and walk away with surplus money.
I am amazed … again.

The amount I owed

If I was a rich woman, I wouldn’t call on Him to provide.
If I had a partner who did the “hard” things around the house, I wouldn’t call on Him when I became afraid.
If I had a car that worked perfectly, I wouldn’t hold the steering wheel and ask Him to drive me there.
If I had more, I wouldn’t recognize my need for Him.
And so, I am thankful.
I am thankful for .82.
It is my reminder that He provides … along the way … just enough, plus some  … day by day … every day.